Buildings that heal themselves could be the future

Attendees at Toronto’s Ontario College of Art and Design University’s Urban Ecologies conference were presented with the idea that buildings of the future will be able to repair themselves.

The idea was included in a presentation delivered by Rachel Armstrong, who is an architect and medical doctor. She currently works at the University of Newcastle as a professor, where she teaches experimental construction techniques and leads research into the field of living architecture.

She said to conference attendees:

“Architects have to start thinking about buildings as new natural systems.”

She believes that the buildings of the future will no longer be inert structures. Instead, they will be organic structures that have natural processes built into them, some of which will keep the building strong.

An example she gave of how this idea could be applied was, Venice. This historic city is built primarily on wooden piles that were sunk into the Venetian Lagoon. These piles are slowly rotting, but it is believed that a natural process can be harnessed to strengthen these wooden stakes. Armstrong explained that it is possible to encourage limestone to grow naturally on and around these stakes, which would reinforce them.

She went on to explain that there are microorganisms that create heat, produce oils and trap sunlight. All of these have the potential to turn our homes and other buildings into productive resources. Her ideas are still some way off being fully ready for use, but architects in Chester and other UK cities are being inspired to think beyond the norm when designing all kinds of buildings and are likely, in the future, to have new materials to work with.

Posted by Matt Hughes
July 16, 2015

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